How I planned my 6-month escape to Australia & Asia
When planning such a big escape like this, you don't know where to start. After doing all my research online and speaking with friends, I put my list together and did each one step by step. In addition to sorting out my employment termination, giving in the notice for my apartment, selling all the furniture, cancelling all direct debits (internet, electricity & home insurance), paying all my taxes and moving my stuff back home to London, here's my personal travel checklist which hopefully can be useful to you too:
I kind of already knew that I wanted to travel around Australia and South East Asia. The problem is, that when you start to look into each destination in more detail, you realise that there are an abundance of amazing places to visit and how are you ever going to be able to plan it all?!
The way I did it was to start by making a list of all the countries I wanted to visit, then check when is the best time to visit each country (try to avoid peak seasons, monsoon seasons, etc.) and then make a more detailed list of the main places to visit in each country - read blogs, ask your friends, get inspiration from Instagram, go on Lonely Planet! You might not be able to visit every single place on your list as you'll want to adapt when you're there and have some spontaneity but it's good to have an overall idea.
Don't forget to check your country's foreign affairs official website for each country you plan to visit as some destinations might be highly unrecommended. For example – I wanted to go to Borneo but the North East side is considered very dangerous at the moment so I preferred to avoid the risk and take this off my itinerary. Click here for UK Government foreign travel advice.
It can get a bit overwhelming when searching for all these international flights so I suggest by starting with your main return flight from home to your first country of choice. After endless searching on several travel search engines, I finally booked my flight on Expedia with Etihad flying to Perth beginning of January and returning from Kuala Lumpur end of June (900€). I choose this flight because the timings, including the stopovers, were good (I got to explore Abu Dhabi for a day), it's a reputable company and I found that the price was not too bad considering that I booked my ticket just over a month before departure.
This is one of the most important items on the travel checklist and I suggest sorting this out at least a month before going away as some vaccinations need to be done 2 or 3 times over a 3-4 week period. The procedure might vary depending on your country and your doctor should be able to assist you.
As I was living in Paris, I had my done at the SOS Vaccination centre because they offer fixed appointments and have the most competitive prices. Everything went well and the doctor knew exactly what I needed when I told him about the countries I was planning to visit (vaccinations against rabies, hepatitis A & B, Japanese encephalitis, and typhoid plus a tetanus, diphtheria & polio booster). I had to get my last set of vaccinations in London as I was short on time and I went to the London Travel Clinic.
Overall, I paid around 600€ for all my vaccinations so do include this in your travel budget! It's worth checking if some of these vaccinations can be covered by your private health insurance or national healthcare system (in France and the UK travel vaccinations aren't covered).
Each country has different requirements and these may vary depending on your nationality. You should check the Immigration and Border Protection official websites of the countries you'll be visiting to get all necessary information and, where possible, apply online for your tourist visa before going away. You never know how bad your internet service may be and it's best to not have to worry about visa issues at the last minute.
For example, as a British national, I was able to apply online for a tourist visa for Australia and for my stopover in Abu Dhabi I didn't need a visa.
To be honest, I've never taken out travel insurance in the past when I've travelled but considering that on this occasion it was a big trip and to certain countries with more risks of illnesses, I preferred to get insurance coverage just in case. After much research and consultation, I took out my travel insurance with World Nomads and got the Explorer Plan. It's important to make sure that your insurance covers all the countries that you are travelling to, that it will be valid for the duration of your travels and that there are no silly caps on the amount that certain treatments might cost.
We all know how it expensive it can be to make international calls or check your Facebook for 20 seconds so I suggest getting a local sim card in each country you travel too. For example, I got a $30 monthly plan with Optus whilst in Australia and I just bought it at a supermarket and set it up really quickly.
International payment card
As I knew I was going to be travelling to different countries, I needed to find a solution for international payments to avoid all the bank fees. A friend suggested using Revolut to have a pre-paid debit card and avoid fees when withdrawing cash.
As you're planning on going on the trip of a lifetime you will regret not having decent photos/videos when you get back. For this you don't need a super expensive camera. I started off with a Sony Alpha 5000 and it was perfect. When I got more into the hang of it, I upgraded to the Alpha 6000 and this is the camera I took with me. I also took my gorillapod, an external hard drive, some spare SD cards and last but not least, my DJI Mavic Pro.
Selection of books
I'm quite old school when it comes to reading as I prefer to read print books rather than e-books. This obviously means carrying several books around instead of having it all on one little device but, for me, the pleasure of turning pages of my book whilst I read overrides that practicality. I recommend buying a selection of 2-4 books (ideally go for the smaller/lighter ones) and once you've read them I'm sure you will find a hotel, hostel or cafe where you can exchange your book for another one that someone else left behind.
Here's are some of books I took with me that were recommended by my friends:
Fiesta - Ernest Hemingway
All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
Tender Is The Night - Scott Fitzgerald
Eldorado - Laurent Gaudé
✰ Inform your bank(s) that you will be travelling so that they don’t find it suspicious when you start withdrawing money from different destinations and block your card - that's the last thing you need when you're on the other side of the world...
✰ Make sure to take a few photocopies of your passport, ID and other important documents to carry around with you when travelling so that you can leave the originals in a safe place (i.e. hotel safe).
✰ Avoid taking your valuable jewellery when travelling to certain countries (I tend to always leave my valuable jewellery at home anyway to avoid losing it or having it stolen when I travel).
✰ Get all medicine, sun cream, mosquito repellent, etc. at home instead of buying these in foreign countries to ensure good quality and to avoid health problems.
✰ Try to solve all medical and dental issues before travelling - a general check-up with your doctor is the best thing to do. Plus your doctor can recommend the type of general medicine you should buy before going away - i.e. for headaches, stomach pains, cuts, infections, etc.
✰ Don’t forget to take a couple of international travel adaptors!
Are you planning on doing a long escape around the world or to a particular continent?